New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MARSHALL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-260, Claim No. 105510, Motion No. M-64644


Court granted State's pre-answer motion to dismiss claim for alleged unlawful confinement for failure to state cause of action. Segregation does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Court has no jurisdiction to entertain alleged violaiton of U.S. Constitution and New York does not recognize a cause of action for negligent investigation.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Isaac Marshall, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Joel Marmelstein, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 6, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The defendant's pre-answer motion to dismiss the claim for failure to state a cause of action is granted. The instant claim filed on January 23, 2002 seeks to recover money damages for 180 days of alleged unlawful confinement in the segregated housing unit at Marcy Correctional Facility, Marcy, New York. The confinement was imposed along with other penalties following a disciplinary hearing held on August 28, 1998 at which claimant was found guilty of unspecified disciplinary charges. The finding of guilt was reversed by the Commissioner by memorandum dated April 21, 2000 and claimant's record was expunged. Claimant alleges herein that his disciplinary conviction was unlawful and his confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment. He further alleges that his disciplinary conviction resulted from the administration's negligent investigation of the underlying incident, the nature of which is not specifically described in the claim.

The standard for determining a motion to dismiss a claim pursuant to CPLR 3211 (a) (7) is well settled. The claim will be deemed legally sufficient and the motion denied if a claimant is entitled to recover upon any reasonable view of the stated facts (see, 219 Broadway Corp. v Alexander's, Inc., 46 NY2d 506, 509). "Whatever an ultimate trial may disclose as to the truth of the allegations, on such a motion, a court is to take them as true and resolve all inferences which reasonably flow therefrom in favor of the pleader" (Sanders v Winship, 57 NY2d 391, 394).

Even viewed from such a perspective the instant claim must be dismissed since claimant's request for money damages stems from a disciplinary proceeding conducted within the facility upon notice to the claimant. It is established that "[t]he actions of correctional facility employees insofar as they relate to inmate discipline are quasi-judicial in nature and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules and regulations, are accorded absolute immunity" (Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, citing Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 218-220).

Neither the claim nor the notice of intention to file a claim which was served in this action contains any reference whatsoever to the violation of Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) rules or regulations in connection with claimant's disciplinary hearing or the punishment imposed. Claimant's affidavit in opposition to the motion cites two cases, Della Pietra v State of New York, 125 AD2d 936 and Craft v State of New York, 189 Misc 2d 661 which purportedly support his position. The Della Pietra case, however, is totally inapposite since it involved a claim arising from the New York State Organized Crime Task Force's failure to obtain the Governor's prior approval to obtain a search warrant in violation of a statute requiring such approval. Craft v State of New York, supra, is equally unavailing. Unlike the instant claim, the claim in that case alleged a violation of a specific DOCS regulation prohibiting the opening, inspection and reading of outgoing correspondence without express written authorization from the facility superintendent (7NYCRR § 720.3 [e]).

Here the claimant has neither alleged a violation of a specific rule or regulation nor has he provided any facts from which a violation of any DOCS rule or regulation could be inferred. He merely contends in paragraph 4 of his affidavit that he should be allowed "to prove that the prison authorities violated their own rules in confining me."

A claim must assert a cause of action indicating the legal basis upon which the State is alleged to be liable (see, Patterson v State of New York, 54 AD2d 147). Neither the notice of intention nor the claim sets forth the manner in which DOCS employees allegedly violated applicable rules and/or regulations or the precise nature of the acts of State employees giving rise to liability (Bonaparte v State of New York, 175 AD2d 683). Absent such an allegation absolute immunity applies to the actions of DOCS personnel in disciplinary matters (Arteaga v State of New York, supra) and the immunity provided such matters is not lost simply because the disciplinary determination is later reversed (see, Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY NY2d 819, see also, Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765).

To the extent that the claim may be said to assert that claimant was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment proscribed by the federal and state constitutions it is likewise subject to dismissal. Claimant has failed to provide any factual detail from which a viable cause of action might be discerned. He has neither alleged nor shown that the conditions of his confinement in the segregated housing unit were so intolerable as to shock the conscience. It is established that mere confinement in a segregation cell does not alone constitute cruel and unusual punishment (Wilkinson v Skinner, 34 NY2d 53). Moreover, this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a cause of action premised upon an alleged violation of the federal constitution whether premised on 42 USC § 1983 or § 1981 (Zagarella v State of New York, 149 AD2d 503).

Finally, "[t]here is no cause of action in the State of New York sounding in negligent prosecution or investigation" (Coleman v Corporate Loss Prevention Assocs., 282 AD2d 703; Treacy v State of New York, 131 Misc 2d 849).

Accordingly, the defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

June 6, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
1. Notice of motion dated January 3, 2002;
2. Affirmation of Joel L. Marmelstein dated January 3, 2002 with exhibits;
3. Affidavit of Isaac Marshall sworn to March 11, 2002;